2013 was an awesome year for cinema. And now that it’s a thing of the past, we can look forward to an exciting and spectacular year to follow in 2014. Although all the films of 2013 have been released, we still have a lot to look forward to with holdover films–films still in theatres and films nominated by Academy Awards as well as the broadcast coming in March. The impressions left by the variety of films from 2013 are some that will stay with us for many years to come and could potentially pave the way for the future of cinema over the next decade or perhaps longer. Below, is Night Film Review’s Top 13 films of 2013. From outer-world, special effect laden blockbusters, to small indie films, to unexpected festival entries. For us at Night Film Reviews, if you haven’t seen these films then your 2013 was surely incomplete. So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy our list of the best 13 films of 2013, as chosen by us. Dive right in below!
If you followed our list of the Top 10 Films of 2013…Thus Far, posted back in October, you will see which films stood the test of time and retained their spot atop our coveted list, and which ones flew off. For your consideration and to show that there was no shortage of fine cinema throughout the year, there will be an Honourable Mentions list as well to follow our main list. So, once again, here are Night Film Review’s Top 13 films of the year.
13. American Hustle
There is no denying the power writer/director David O. Russell has as a respected and meticulous character actor director. While on set he has become quite notorious for sometimes throwing away the script completely and focusing on just the characters themselves, and it shows. O. Russell carves rich and deep characters with complex issues that tread the line of mortality, ethics, their own code, and the colourful boundaries of the world around them. It is in my honest opinion that O. Russell has made his best film to date and one that is leaps and bounds greater than Silver Linings Playbook. Look out for career best from Cooper, Adams and Renner, who deliver with every line, nuanced mannerism, and burst from the screen.
12. Side Effects
This is the first holdover film from our list back in October, and rightly so. Writer/director/cinematographer/editor extraordinaire Steven Soderbergh delivers what is suppose to be his retirement film before he ventures off into the world of painting, and oh what a sight it is. Stylized like only Soderbergh knows how to do, Channing Tatum delivers his best post-Magic Mike performance yet. Soderbergh’s last film is a testament to the many great things he has done as a filmmaker. Filled with weary imagery, convoluted plot points and some twists and turns that no-one could ever possibly expect, the film shows the range of its director, the power of its actors, and the fact that even if a film is released in January, it still has a chance at the top.
11. Before Midnight
After 18 years in the making, wavelength filmmaker Richard Linklater along with co-scribes and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have outdone themselves and delivered the most intricate, raw and unflinchingly real account of modern day relationships, for the young and old. Before Midnight is a heart-wrenching, sometimes neurotic yet charming film whose history, and geography, spans Vienna, Paris and Pylos in Greece. The film is a testament to the power of silence, the importance of dialogue and the wittiness of real world issues and how they affect and shape this overly romanticized notion of love in a Hollywood driven Western world. After 18 years, we may not get exactly what we we’re hoping for from the Before Sunrise series, but the film will surely open your eyes, break your heart, and make you fall in love with the journey that is love and the power of independent film-making–all in real time. Bravo, ciao, and grazie!
10. Out of the Furnace
Talk about a film with a wide release that went completely under the radar. It is in my honest opinion that Bale delivers a more concentrated and tormented character here than he does in American Hustle. Alas, one of the many lessons I am learning as a young and avid film critic, is that sometimes glam and hype is all you need to be recognized. With Scott Cooper’s second directorial feature, the world rust belt of the United States creates a landscape that is reminiscent to some amazing pieces of recent narrative cinema like The Fighter, Prisoners and one of my all-time favourites Warrior. Out of the Furnace is a boiling hot-tempered film with explosive scenes themed with brotherhood, integrity and a class, all on it’s own. From the moment the film bursts onto the screen, its sizzles with emotion and raw-talent from both its actors as well as its landscape filled with tragedy, blood and an unfortunate reality.
In other slavery epics, you may never really feel the lashings and lynchings that the characters on screen feel, but Steve McQueen’s latest, 12 Years a Slave is a harsh and powerful piece of eye-opening cinema that shares the pain on screen with the emotions in your heart. The true marvel of the film lies in the memoir of its real-life character as well as the Oscar caliber performances from Ejiofor, Fassbender, Dano, Cumberbatch, Pitt, and of course Nyong’o. Although the film didn’t hit me in quite the same way as McQueen’s previous film Shame, there is no denying the power and craftsmanship in McQueen’s lens. The film is a testament to how much people are willing to endure to live and how much audiences can endure with elongated scenes of torture, callousness and betrayal.
It isn’t very often that you watch a movie with a runtime a little over two and a half hours about child abduction that you want to see again immediately. Prisoners is a sprawling epic with magnificently paced tension and chilling thrills that make this two and a-half hours go by as if it were nothing. The film flows better than any film this year; its narrative is poignant, its characters are realistic, and its bleakness is magnificent to watch. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve works delicately with the subject matter and has a tremendous pathos for people with children and even people who have find themselves in a similar situation. Cinematographer Roger Deakins creates another epic landscape filled with sadness and dread that drains its scenery as well as its actors. Writer Aaron Guzikowski delivers quite possibly the best script from the Black List of that year and builds his story without ever making it melodramatic. Finally, the film’s integral pieces are its two male leads, Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, who in my opinion should be nominated this year in their respective Lead Actor and Supporting Actor categories, for delivering two of the most emotional performances of the year. The film is a massive landslide of achievements in story-telling, and spot-on real world dialogue.
7. Blue is the Warmest Colour
I’m not sure if you notice a pattern in filmmaking, or my list, but the theme of love is either heavily influenced or has much, if not all to do with art. The truth of the matter is, love is everywhere, and I LOVE Blue is the Warmest Colour. The film is a tragic, surreal yet authentic look at love today. Misunderstood, graphic, experimental and in-your-face, the film is not only a testament to the power of love, but is also a testament to the power of film-making. The performances are top-notch, the story is unconventional, and the power within its frames is powerful beyond belief. There is nothing to prepare you for this firecracker of a film that will stay with you…forever!
6. A Wolf At The Door
This is another entry that can be proud to say stayed on my list for the year of 2013. Unlike Side Effects, that slipped from the #6 spot to the #12th spot, A Wolf at The Door only slipped 2 spots, and still holds it’s presence. The film is a ruthless, gritty, and dark tale filled with looming pessimism, ego, and pride. I could argue the feminist perspective, or I could just say the film is pitted against the horrors of Latino macho culture, but either way this film is a fantastic portrayal of passion, lust, and sex! A Wolf at The Door is a haunting and harrowing tale with tragedy coursing through its hot-tempered Brazilian veins, one that will burn its way into your memory for a very long time.
5. Starred Up
When I first saw Starred Up at TIFF, I compared it to prison film greats Bronson, and Un Prophete. As the time passed and I allowed the film to settle in, my feelings couldn’t have been more right. Powerhouse actor Ben Mendelsohn is matched by an intense and fierce performance by the young Jack O’Connell, and together, with the help of the raw Rupert Friend, Starred Up is one of the most mandatory film viewings of 2013. There are a slew of films that make their way to limited release theatrical bouts and even get a wide release, but this film is probably one that will never see the light of day in a big screen other than during festival season. This is one film that you need to see, one you should go out of your way for, and one that needs the audience support in order for the power of its performances to be fully appreciated and understood. Starred Up is a violent, no-holds barred film that will surely ignite a fire and bellow your appetite for obscure festival films with plenty of fight!
There are few films each year that can actually be considered a technical achievement for so many areas of the film-making process. Gravity should be proud in knowing that it is one of those few films that adds so much hope and promise in the world of cinema for the future. The film is a wonder and endless pioneer in the achievement of technical, astute filmmaking thanks to visionary director Alfanso Cuarón. The story my be very simple, but the lasting effects of enchantment, science fiction spectacle and the gravitas of the medium cannot be ignored. For the short hour and thirty minutes, we are detached, drifting poetically into the abyss of space and the unknown. And thanks to the incredible performances from George Clooney, iconic voice work by Ed Harris and the monumental acting milestone in Sandra Bullock’s career, Gravity will have some serious weight as a film that helped shape the vision of cinema for the future. It’s cinematography is the best of the year and Steven Price gives us the most epic score of 2013. If you haven’t seen it already, bring yourself back down to Earth and check out the short IMAX run it will do at the end of the month to see it in the way it was intended.
3. Short Term 12
There are just some films you fall madly and deeply in love with, and Short Term 12 is one of those films. Although the film reminds me a ton of the #2 spot on this list, the film is a very unique commentary on how Americans cope with rehabilitation for youth and orphans. The film loses the gloss, loses the glam, and essentially loses anything that could make this a Hollywood picture. The film allows the wounds of abuse to heal and mend the way they should…with time. Not only was Short Term 12 one of the most affecting films of the year, but it is also a film that I recommend be seen to anyone studying or working within the field of education, medicine and psychology. Watch out and keep your eyes open for a star-in the making performance by Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield.
2. Fruitvale Station
In a year where film didn’t limit itself from creativity, unique ideas and cutting edge story-telling, it is quite stunning to see that my #1 film in October has only drifted one spot to #2, and rightly so because Fruitvale Station is a champion film with a champion performance by it’s lead Michael B. Jordan. There isn’t enough praise that I can give this film which shows the tragedy of misfortune, the reality of racism in modern day America, and the passion that ignites change in all of us. From the moment the film begins, we are touched and enthralled with the story of this man who loved life, struggled (as many of us do) and tried to be the best he could possibly be for his family. The film is a real tear-jerker–an emotional train of a film, frequently visiting the kleenex station. It goes without say that no film will deliver on point better than Fruitvale Station. The film is the BEST film made by a first-time feature filmmaker and forcefully delivers one of the best and underrated performances in 2013. No matter where you are, what language you speak, or the colour of your skin, watch this film, just make sure you have someone to hug right after.
Talk about evolving and revolutionizing cinema! Spike Jonze delivers the most metaphysical, deeply complex and arguably his best screenplay in years with his latest feature, her. The film is a monumental achievement in surveying the future we have with technology, each other and our expectations of love. This is, as we here at Night Film Reviews like to call it, the quintessential definition of our motto, and that is fine film-making! The film can almost be seen as a tremendous piece of art that asks each and every one of us to decide who we love more; ourselves or the person we become connected to? There isn’t enough praise that I could possibly give to her that I haven’t in my review as well as my coveted #1 spot of the year, especially with a roster of so many bright, promising films. Consider this a lock for Best Original Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen at this year’s Oscar’s and a lock for a film that will forever dictate the way we write stories about love, heartbreak and life. This is a film that encapsulates the very beauty found in the delicately crafted works of cinema. Simply stated, her and everything she represents, is beautiful.
Hope you had as much fun with the films of 2013 as we did. As one year comes to a close, we can’t help but be eager for the wonderful year of cinema to come in 2014. So, if you haven’t checked out the films above already, make sure to check them out and fall in love with cinema as we do, again and again. Don’t forget to leave any comments, thoughts and opinions on your own favs of the year as well as any remarks on our list above. Happy viewings readers!